Exercising your puppy

Puppies are full of life and need exercise to stay healthy, but too much exercise might be bad for their growing bones and joints.

It's important to know the right amount – and right types – of exercise for your puppy. Our 2019 PAW Report showed that over a million dogs don’t get a daily walk, which is really important for their mental health and wellbeing. Once your puppy is fully vaccinated, walks should be a big part of their daily routine!

The amount of exercise your puppy needs will depend on their age, breed and size. Check out our tips below for a rough guide on how to exercise your puppy. If you want specific advice, talk to your vet or vet nurse.

 

General advice

a group of cute puppies exercising outside
  • As a general rule, aim for exercising your puppy for five minutes per month of age, twice a day (e.g. three months = 15 minutes twice a day, four months = 20 minutes twice a day etc.).
  • Every pup’s unique: the above is just a rule of thumb so keep an eye on how your puppy is managing. If they seem like they’re struggling, cut down on exercise until their fitness improves (and see the vet if they’re not picking up). If they still have buckets of energy all the time then maybe another round of playtime is in order.
  • Try to keep sessions short at first until your puppy gets used to them.
  • Puppies enjoy ‘free’ playtime, usually they’ll self-regulate and will rest when they get tired. Remember to let them take these breaks when they need to.
  • Your puppy’s breed will also have a big impact on the amount of exercise they need so keep this in mind.
  • Make sure they’re fully vaccinated before letting them outside for walks. Before this, they’ll need plenty of short bursts of exercise playing in a garden or a safe area where they won’t come into contact with unvaccinated dogs.
  • Walking on concrete can get sore after a while as soft puppy paw pads aren’t used to it. Try mixing walking on pavements or roads with walking on softer surfaces, too, like grass or cool sand.
  • Training is exercise too and can be tiring for your pup so bear in mind they might have less extra energy if you’ve done a lot of training that day. Check out our tips for teaching your pup the basics.
  • Your puppy will need plenty of rest in between their exercise, so make sure they have a quiet place to go afterwards if they want.
  • Take it easy and work to your puppy’s pace. If they get tired, rest. If your puppy lies down during a walk, it’s probably because they need a rest. Stop for a little while until they are ready to go again and use this as your guide and finish your walk.
  • Over-exercising your puppy could damage their joints. Avoid intense exercise – don’t take your pup running with you and limit how far you throw a toy for “fetch” until they are fully grown.
  • Vary the types of exercise your puppy does. A good mix of walking, playing, training and socialising with other vaccinated puppies will keep your puppy both physically and mentally healthy.
  • If you want to train your puppy to do agility, make sure to leave the jumps out at first. Training for some of the simpler obstacles can usually start when they’re just under a year old. Jumping isn’t good for a developing puppy because it can damage their growth plates. It’s best to leave the big jumps until they are fully grown. Remember dogs can’t compete in agility until they’re at least 18 months old.
  • Your puppy’s exercise needs will change as they get older, so check with your vet how much exercise they should be getting.

 

Large and Giant breeds

Dalmatian puppy with teddy bear

Generally, larger breeds of dog will need more exercise than smaller breeds. However, it takes longer for their bones and joints to fully develop so you’ll need to be careful with their exercise levels for a bit longer. Our tips for your giant and large breeds are:

  • Don’t exercise for too long. Your large puppy may seem to have a lot of energy but they shouldn’t be exercising for long periods of time to avoid putting too much strain on their joints. Keep exercise sessions fairly short at first with plenty of rest in between.
  • Research your breed to see how fast they grow. Certain exercises that involve putting a lot of strain on their legs – like jumping or running up and down stairs – are a bad idea for a still developing large breed puppy. Wait until they’re fully grown to introduce things such as agility. They often reach their full size much slower than small breeds.
  • Some larger breeds traditionally used as working breeds (e.g. German Shepherds and Labradors) may need extra training sessions to keep their brains active and focused.

 

Medium breeds

Border Collie puppy running around outside

For the most part, medium dog breeds will need an average amount of exercise. There are some medium breeds that will need more exercise than others.

  • While they need plenty of exercise, remember to keep sessions brief so your pup doesn’t overdo it.
  • Because they usually need quite a lot of exercise, it can be good to top up walks by letting your medium breed play in the garden as well. This is ‘free’ playtime where they choose what to do and can rest if they get tired.
  • As with larger working breeds, medium working breeds (e.g. Collies and Spaniels) will need extra activities to challenge their minds.
  • Medium sized terrier breeds are very energetic (just ask any Staffie owner!). They’ll need a safe, secure space to run off-lead and plenty of appropriate toys to play with.

 

Small breeds

Jack Russell puppy bounding around on grass

Small breeds still need plenty of exercise, but often in smaller doses than larger breeds. They also grow much faster which means they’ll be able to do certain activities sooner than large breeds.

  • Keep exercise sessions fairly short.
  • Walks are still good exercise for small dogs, but remember they can’t walk as fast as you! Keep at your puppy’s pace and stop for a rest if they get tired or start to lag behind.
  • Some smaller breeds, such as toy and miniature poodles, are more active and intelligent. Provide them with lots of brain games and short training sessions to prevent boredom.
  • Smaller terrier breeds are very energetic – they like to chase and chew so make sure you have plenty of appropriate toys and games and a good space for them to do this in.

 

Flat-faced breeds

French bulldog puppy playing indoors

Some breeds are bred to have flat faces, which give them problems breathing and exercising. This can make it a challenge to keep them fit even when they are puppies. But keeping them trim is extra important as carrying extra weight can make breathing problems worse.

  • Flat faced puppies won’t be able to do as much exercise as they can struggle to breathe.
  • Try to keep their sessions much shorter and make sure they get plenty of rest in between. ‘Free’ playtime is perfect for flat-faced breeds so they can rest when they need to.
  • Flat-faced breeds will benefit from extra training and puzzle games as they aren’t as physically demanding.
  • Cut down on treats if they’re getting less exercise than their puppy peers to help keep them the right weight. If you’re not sure of the right weight or what to feed your puppy, check with your vet or vet nurse.

If you notice your flat-faced puppy is much quieter and less energetic compared to dogs of a similar age, or if you’re noticing lots of snorting or snuffling when they breathe, visit your vets for advice.